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Rediff News  All News  » Cricket » Rahul Dravid unplugged: 'I'm enjoying Test cricket a lot'

Rahul Dravid unplugged: 'I'm enjoying Test cricket a lot'

Last updated on: August 24, 2011 21:02 IST

Image: Rahul Dravid
In the debris of India's 0-4 debacle against England in the recently-concluded Test series, Rahul Dravid was like gold dust. Where every other Indian batsman struggled to cope with swing, seam and pressure, the maestro from Bangalore showed superb technique and a core of steel.

His 461 runs in the series was fewer than what he scored in England in 2002, but this was a far greater performance for the difficult circumstances in which they were made. Of his three centuries, two came as stand-in opener. In the final Test at the Oval, he carried his bat through the first innings and was back on the field in 10 minutes to open again.

In this freewheeling two-part interview with AYAZ MEMON, taken in England, Dravid opens up about his cricket and his life: how he prepared for the tour, what Indian cricket needs to do to improve its stature, whether easy money is to the detriment of young cricketers, his other interests, and his future.

Lack of preparation of the Indian team has been touted as the biggest issue for India's debacle on this tour. You are the exception in this, having enjoyed a hugely successful series with three centuries. People want to know how you prepare for such big tours? Especially, since you are in and out of the side, like not playing the World Cup for instance...

That's been a bit of a challenge for me, to be honest, in terms of the long gaps that I've had between matches. But I've learnt to manage that better. Initially, when I was not playing one-day cricket and I had these gaps, maybe, I didn't manage it as well as I could have. If it's a long gap you wonder whether you should keep up batting practice or go for more fitness training.

- Harsh reality of the England debacle

It does help if you have some first class games and a few games to get ready and prepared. This time, leading into the tour of the West Indies, I saw this as a twin-series tour -- we'd had the IPL, so I played the IPL where I hit a lot of balls. After the IPL, it was a question of keeping myself physically fit, so I spent a bit of time at the NCA.

More than that, it was important to be refreshed in the mind, go to the West Indies and England, both physically and mentally fresh. I had to hit enough balls. I hit a lot of balls in the IPL, I practised a lot in the IPL even though it's a different format of the game. Still hitting balls, you know, I had that rhythm. The tour of the West Indies definitely helped. I played well there and came to England with a lot of confidence.

'I enjoy playing Test cricket in England'

Image: Rahul Dravid

England's been a happy hunting ground for you right from 1996, your debut. Everyone talks of how you have adjusted to the conditions so well here while others have struggled. Did you do a lot of visualisation or some special mental technique?

I have a lot of pleasant memories of touring England. I made my debut here, had a good series then and had a very good 1999 World Cup; so my early memories of touring and playing here have been good ones. And that definitely does help; it gives you that confidence that you have played well on those wickets, in those conditions you have scored runs.

- Injuries apart, it was overall batting failure that did India in

I don't think I made a special effort. But I enjoy coming here. I enjoy the country as well, I love London the city, I love walking around. I just love the fact that Test cricket especially is so well-supported here. I enjoy playing Test cricket here because I know you're always going to be playing in front of an appreciative crowd houses which in itself is a fantastic thing for a performer. Touch wood, all my tours here have been good for me.

'I wanted to have a good tour'

Image: Rahul Dravid

Did you set yourself any targets for this tour? You are on the wrong side of 30, and while sports medicine has improved fitness standards, you would have to say that the best part of your career is behind you...

Definitely. No doubt I know I'm closer to the end than to the beginning. I understand it fully. I didn't set targets in terms of the runs that I want to score, but, obviously, I wanted to have a good tour. But you can say that about every tour, every tour you want to have a good one.

- Is this India's 'oldest' Test squad?

I've always enjoyed touring the West Indies, I've enjoyed coming here and I wanted to enjoy the whole experience again. And whether I scored runs or not, try and do the things even off the field that over the years I've enjoyed doing in these countries. That doesn't mean runs are guaranteed. I did the same things in 2007 and didn't have such a great tour as a batsman. I've probably come in here with a bit of confidence after the West Indies and, maybe, I've taken that forward into this series.

'Keep on improving all the time'

Image: Rahul Dravid

This tour has ratified once again that whenever the going gets tough Rahul Dravid seems to get going better than anybody else. What do you think is your strongest attribute? Patience, concentration, application, obviously technique....

Hard for me to say what my strengths are there are the obvious ones I think I've had a good temperament right from when I was young. I've always had a desire to learn and get better I tend to keep pushing myself and I can sometimes be quite hard on myself. Sometimes I need to watch myself on that. But, in some ways, it's helped, because I've kept pushing, looking to get better, and kept improving.

- Rahul Dravid: Team India's firewall

I think that's really important in international cricket. If you want to keep doing well over long periods of time you've got to keep improving because you play amongst guys who are improving all the time, who are getting better all the time.

I've enjoyed the process of trying to get better all the time. But, in specific terms, I really don't know. People talk about my concentration, ability to bat for long periods of time. Maybe that helps. But, fact is, I enjoy batting, I enjoy my time at the crease, try and focus on each ball at a time, enjoy that whole experience and the process and then refocus. . . I don't know whether that's a strength or not, but it's something that I've always done.

'I don't think video analysis helps too much'

Image: MS Dhoni

In golf there's something called the `inner game', because you are alone when playing the sport, in the sense there is no rival in front of you, and you are essentially competing against yourself. Is your process internalised, or do you rely on something like simple video analysis, say getting video footage of fast bowlers etc in preparing for an innings or tour?

I don't think that video analysis helps too much. At the end of the day, like you said, it's really internal. When I have done well I've found that I've mentally really relaxed, in a good space. These are important things that I need to get in, what you've called the inner game. Getting the inner side of yourself right, not being too nervous, relaxed at the crease, learning how to deal with failure, learning how to bounce back, learning how to be emotionally ready for each and every day of Test cricket.

- Don't consider myself 'The Wall': Dravid

There are lot of ups and downs in Test cricket and you need to be able to keep picking yourself up. It can get hard and when I have good tours I'm generally able to do that quite well. It doesn't always work and there's no process or formula to it. People ask why you aren't like that all the time and sometimes you're just not!

It's a confidence thing. Sometimes it doesn't click. You try and do the same routines that in the past have got you that success or that state of mind and it doesn't seem to work sometimes. It is a tough game sometimes. The important thing is when you're doing well, and when you're scoring runs, you've got to make it count. I think that's really important. You've got to realise that you're going to hit some rough periods in your career; so, when things work for you, you've got to make it last as long as you can.

'I've gone through some tough times in my career'

Image: Rahul Dravid

Do you sometimes feel that you have not got enough accolades? Does that drive you to do better?

I've never really worried about that. People keep telling me that, maybe, you don't get the recognition you deserve; but, I think, I've got enough. In my own mind, I'm very comfortable. I think I've got a hell of a lot of recognition. When I look around me and I look at the other cricketers of India who've also done well, the number of guys who play first class cricket for years, there can be no complaint. Outside of cricket, you look around and see so many guys who struggle day and day out and get nowhere near the reward for the effort they put in. Living in India you just see it every day; it's in your face. There a lot more disadvantaged people than you and you can't really be complaining about small things.

I'm very comfortable and happy with what I've got. I think I'm recognised and rated for my work by colleagues and peers. A lot of nice things have been written about me in these 15 years and I'm very comfortable.

You've got the record to justify more...

The record's nice. But I've played a long time as well and you know if you play so many years you're going to put up numbers. The important thing for me is that I've been able to survive so long in Indian cricket. I've faced the challenges, I've faced the questions that have been asked of me, I've faced the hardships. I've gone through some tough times in my career. I've gone through some ups and downs, some really difficult periods as you know. But I've got through that, I've fought my way through. That's what I've really enjoyed. 

'You cannot always be on top'

Image: Rahul Dravid

Did it upset you that you were a key member of the one-day team too and suddenly one day you're out, missing even the World Cup in 2011?

It's hard to put a finger on this. I had a very tough year in 2008. I gave up the captaincy in 2007 thinking that I would get better in my cricket, my own performance would improve. But it didn't seem to pan out well for me. It was hard especially after going through such a phase from 2000-2006 when I was scoring runs all the time. It was a tough period for me, I began to really doubt myself.

And I couldn't put a finger on what was going wrong. I kept trying different things. I tried to do the things, which had brought me success in those early years. But it didn't seem to work. Now, when I look back, sometimes you just have to accept these things. Cricket teaches you that you cannot always be on top. There are going to be times when you have to learn how to face the difficulties.

Overall, I think that the difficult period made me a better person. I learnt that it's all right to fail, it's not the be all and end all of life. Sometimes things don't go your way and you don't have to always do really well. I learnt that life does move on and it has not come to an end if I didn't score a 100 or got dropped from the Indian team.

'I'm enjoying Test cricket a lot'

Image: Rahul Dravid

Now that you've been recalled to the one-day side, you've announced your retirement! You do want to play one-day cricket, or is this forced on you?

I wasn't picked for one-day cricket for about 24 months, so I obviously never expected to be picked again. If I had announced my retirement when I wasn't being picked people might have turned around and asked, 'Well, you're announcing your retirement from what?'' If you are not going to be picked in any case, what's the point of retiring?

I am appreciative of the confidence, which the selectors have reposed in me, but I also know that at this stage in my career -- and knowing my body -- I would rather do what I enjoy most. And I'm enjoying Test cricket a lot.

This also gives me some time off to spend with my young family. I'm really enjoying that side of life. I know in the last year-and-a-half I've enjoyed the time away from the game. I know it's also good for my body at this stage. I'm not a spring chicken any more. I know if I keep playing constantly I am going to struggle with injuries. I'd rather play a little bit of cricket, but play it well.

In the short term I think this is great. It's a vote of confidence and I hope to play well in the ODI series. But, realistically speaking, Test cricket's what I should be preparing for and keep my body and mind ready for.

On Thursday's Rahul Dravid Unplugged, the ace batsman talks about captaincy